Guest Post

Orphan Monster Spy Blog Tour


Matt Killeen author photo.jpgToday is my stop on the Orphan Monster Spy blog tour. Protaganist Sarah is a good example of a female character who knows her own mind and makes her own decisions. Matt has written about his female heroes and today he celebrates singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette. 

I’m so excited to welcome Matt to my blog. 

birdAlanis Morissette

 Alanis was not the first female artist to swear and tell it like it was. She wasn’t the first to complain about abuse in the music business in song. She wasn’t the first to scream and talk explicitly about sex and heartache. She wasn’t even the first person to play the harmonica that badly in a professional setting.

 Yet there was something about her that sounded genuinely new. There was virtually no analogy, metaphor or simile at work in most of her lyrics. She hopes that her ex-boyfriend feels her having sex with someone else. So that’s what she says.

 Again, it was not unique, but it was the moment when 33 million people stumped up £12 for Jagged Little Pill to hear her go for it over and over again. It was the point when the entire world decided it wanted to hear a woman speak, without any filter whatsoever, from the darkest and most transgressive of her desires and hatreds, to the wildest of her dreams and the most heinous of her wounds. All in so many words.

 Figuratively and lyrically she managed to exist simultaneously as “beautiful” and “ugly”, good and bad, equally comfortable with either, equally dismissive of both. She seemed so triumphant and so lost, so powerful and yet so vulnerable. Even her descriptions of sex manage to be detailed without being pornographic. And all this rendered complexity, all this terrifying, deep and murky raucousness was melodic, accessible and catchy. Perfect pop. It played the game, changed the rules and won.

 One of the few obfuscations on the album, using similes throughout, is the track that’s most dubiously derided. No, her examples aren’t ironic – but in fact, she doesn’t insist these things are ironic, she just asks us if that’s what we’d call them. It took me years to realise that it was all about meeting the man of her dreams and then meeting his wife…an event that left her lost for words. It’s an admission of weakness, so embarrassing that it can only have been true. What it probably was for a supposed former infatuation junkie, was typical.

 It was an album released by a woman – it appeared on Madonna’s Maverick label – when every other company had passed on it. It outsold her boss, the Beatles, Guns N’ Roses and even Adele hasn’t done better. It remains the 13th highest selling album of all time, the second best-selling album by any woman. That may not be meaningful – Shania Twain is number one after all – but it was the Wonder Woman of its day, proving conclusively that the public would stump up cash to hear a woman speak for herself.

 She suffered through all this to an extent and took a sharp turn in style in its aftermath. She became ever more introspective and concentrated on self-care to the detriment of her sales and arguably the quality and importance of her music. Certainly, her work no longer resonated with the numbers of people it had done.

 As a music journalist, I might bemoan the reasons behind her later choices. She once said of her change in intensity, that singing Jagged Little Pill live, night after night, hadn’t resolved anything for her but made her more angry. This suggests that she thought that it was supposed to be cathartic for her. She was the shaman, she was there to heal the tribe, not herself. Of course, there speaks that part of us all that likes our rock-stars to burn bright and then be a bit dead.

 As a fan, I could talk about the crushing disappointment of her meditative later material, or the fact that the 2005 acoustic version appeared to show someone who didn’t know what made her greatest achievement worth listening to.

 But as a feminist, she decided she was done. So that has to be good enough for me. Maybe what she gave us of herself should be enough for everyone. She was just a singer. She was not a spokesperson or shaman. She was just a woman. But wow, what a woman.


Thanks to Matt for your wonderful piece. Tomorrow’s stop is at Be My Anchor.

Young Adult Reviews

Review: Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen


orphan monster spy


Nazi Germany. Sarah is left an orphan when her mother is shot at a road block. Sarah puts her trust in a British Spy and agrees to play a vital part in his mission. She goes undercover as a German schoolgirl and attempts to befriend the daughter of an eminent scientist.

Sarah negotiates cruel teachers and school-girl bullies, all the while working to get herself and the Captain into the scientist’s house. Trapped in a world of lies Sarah does what she must to survive, but will she ever be protected by the adults around her?

A fast-moving thriller which poses deep questions about the rise of fascism.


Sarah will do anything to survive, even become the thing she hates. A dumb monster. The theme which affected me most was how ‘ordinary’ people’s behaviour allows the rise of fascism. The Captain makes a comment about the rise of the Nazis which is particularly pertinent in the modern day. A few years ago the Nazi party was just a few angry men in a beer hall. Although this is set in WW2 the themes it talks about are relevant today.  

Sarah’s relationship with her mother was clearly unhappy and this drives her to act. To prove herself. It is possibly also the reason she bonds with Captain. She is willing to trust anyone who will stay with her but isn’t necessarily the best judge of who to trust. The Captain has secrets of his own and there are things he doesn’t tell Sarah about her mission. I cared very much about Sarah and wanted her to find a safe place and someone she trusts. Her friendship with Maus is touching because Maus is someone Sarah forms a genuine bond with.   

The novel does a brilliant job of showing ways children might have been affected by the Nazi regime. Sarah lives in fear for her life. The school bullies have been brainwashed into believing things the regime says are true. Maus barely meets the standards set by the school. The novel clearly explores how fascism benefits some by taking from others.

A dark and compelling thriller which will keep readers hooked. If you like high-stakes thrillers this will keep you turning the pages.

Check out all the stops on the Orphan Monster Spy Blog Tour: